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Get ready for flu season, health officials advise

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Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 10:00 pm

Health officials advise people 65 and over and others who may be high at risk for the flu - such as people with chronic illnesses - to start getting their flu shots now. Others who are at lower risk can likely wait until the end of the month before seeking vaccination.

The California Department of Health Services has ordered 751,020 doses of flu vaccine for the coming flu season. The vaccine will be distributed to local health departments that offer free clinics for low-income residents.

Locally, San Joaquin County is expecting to receive 9,960 doses, while Sacramento County is slated for 8,450. Local hospitals and health agencies report they have ordered the vaccine and should know within the next week or two when and where flu clinics will be available to the public.

This year's statewide shipment of vaccine is 20 percent larger than what officials received last year, when major vaccine provider Chiron was restricted from sending some flu shot doses because of contamination.

Because of a resulting shortage nationwide, only high-risk groups were allowed shots.

This year, local agencies expect there will be enough shots to go around, but still recommend high-risk groups make sure they have been vaccinated.

Groups considered a priority for influenza vaccines include:

• Adults 65 and older

• Nursing home residents

• Children between six and 23 months of age

• Anyone with a chronic health condition, including asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease

• Pregnant women

• Household members and caregivers of infants under six months

• Health care workers

Lodi Memorial Hospital has already ordered this year's flu shots and is looking to receive the shots sometime this week or next. At-risk patients will be notified first, followed by the public at large, said spokeswoman Carol Farron.

Until then, people are advised to practice good hygiene to prevent influenza and flu-like symptoms, such as hand washing and not touching their eyes, noses and mouths.

"The first line of defense is your own responsibility," Farron said.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

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